Pentecost 5, “He’s the Man!”
Pastor Gary Wong July 5, 2020
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
They stand there, row after row with each piece perfectly placed in a dazzling variety of patterns. At a pre-arranged signal, a single finger pushes over the first domino. As the first one falls, it hits the second, which in turn hits the third and so on and so on. The first falling domino starts a continuous chain reaction that doesn’t stop until all of the dominoes have fallen. You’ve probably played this game at home. What I’m talking about, however, isn’t child’s play. I’m talking about a serious competition that draws teams from around the world. In 2006, it took a team of ninety builders two months to set up a design which itself took one year to plan. It took twenty one minutes for that first domino to topple over a record 4,079, 381 dominoes! That’s quite a result, considering that all of it happened because of the single action of just one man.
Friends, today’s text speaks about the actions of not one but two men. And similar to the game of falling dominoes, the actions of the second man were a direct result of the first man’s singular act. However, the consequences of the actions described in our lesson are far more serious than a few fallen dominoes. In fact, these two men have impacted the entire human race in the all-important matters of life and death. Who are these two individuals? They are the first man, Adam, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is both God and man. We praise the Lord for giving us the gift of his Son who has broken the power of sin and death. Out of thankfulness for what God has done, we worship and serve the Lord by following the pattern of Jesus, our Savior. In everything we do, let us give all glory to him.
In the beginning, God created a perfect world. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Moses records the details of God’s creation. From absolutely nothing, our Almighty God made the heavens and the earth. First there was light. On the second day he created the sky. On the third day God gathered the waters into oceans, rivers, lakes and streams; dry ground appeared and vegetation to cover the ground. The fourth day saw the birth of the sun, moon, and stars. On the fifth day God filled the air with birds and the sea with fish. On the sixth day God created all of the animals that move on the land. At this point, was God finished with his creative work? The answer, of course, is “No.” So what was missing? Man! Now, God could have chosen to make the universe and everything in it all at once. In his wisdom, however, God deliberately chose to create certain things on certain days in a very specific order. God chose to create mankind last for a very special reason. God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the ground” (Gen. 1:26).
In other words, God made man the crown of his creation. So human beings are not, as those who believe in evolution might put it, apes who have learned how to shave. Rather, we are God’s special creation. Moreover, human beings are set apart from every other living creature because God created us with souls. Yes, God formed Adam’s body from the dust of the ground; but Adam did not become a living being until God had breathed the breath of life into him. Both Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. And what is that image? Obviously, it cannot refer to a physical resemblance because God is spirit. So, to what does the image of God refer? It refers to the fact that God is holy, righteous and without sin. So when God created the first man (and woman), they also were without sin. Adam and Eve were created with a perfect knowledge of God’s will and the perfect desire and ability to carry out that will.
Holiness and righteousness is the pattern which God had intended for all mankind to follow. And at first, Adam and Eve perfectly followed that pattern. Everything they did gave glory to their Creator. Sadly, one act completely destroyed that pattern. Adam willfully and deliberately decided to disobey God. Now, it’s not as though Adam could claim that he didn’t know what he was doing. Nor could he make the excuse that he didn’t know what the consequences of his actions would be. He knew perfectly well what God had commanded: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Yet, rather than trusting the Lord, Adam chose to believe the devil’s lie. He ate the forbidden fruit. Adam’s one act of disobedience brought immediate repercussions.
All of creation was affected by Adam’s transgression. The ground, now cursed, would produce thorns and thistles; and it would only be by the sweat of man’s brow that the ground would grudgingly yield food. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for Eve, either. Childbearing and child-rearing would now be painful. While all of these consequences were tragic and serious, they were minor inconveniences compared to the greatest consequence of Adam’s singular act. Do you remember the exclusive blessing that God had bestowed on mankind? It was that God had made man in his holy image. So what happened to that image—that perfect pattern—when Adam disobeyed the Lord? It was completely gone; lost. And like Humpty- Dumpty who had fallen off the wall, there was absolutely nothing that Adam could do to put that image back together again. But by far the worst consequence of losing the image of God was that man could no longer live in God’s presence.
To put it simply, because Adam sinned, Adam would die; but not just Adam. His act of disobedience brought death to every man, woman, and child—every human being who has been born or will be born to the end of time. In the first verse of our text Paul declares, “therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—“ (Ro. 5:12). The image of God—the pattern of holiness that had been given to Adam and lost because of Adam’s transgression—has been replaced with a pattern of sinfulness in all of Adam’s offspring. All of us have inherited this fatal flaw from our parents. The evidence of this pattern is displayed in our every thought, word, and action, all of which are tainted by sin. The consequence of that ingrained pattern is that all of us will die.
So the question is, who can rectify the pattern which all of us have inherited—the pattern of Adam that leads to death? Certainly it is not you or I. The only one who could work this miracle is God, the original pattern maker. God’s solution was to send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world as a direct result of Adam’s trespass and with the express purpose of saving mankind from the consequences of Adam’s sin. That is why Paul says that Adam is the “pattern of the one to come.” Basically, Paul makes a comparison between the first man, Adam, and Jesus. And while there are some similarities, Jesus far surpasses Adam in every respect. Now, that’s not to say that Paul minimizes the effect of Adam’s sin—that “many died by the trespass of the one man”; rather, the results of Christ’s act of redemption are far greater and far better than Adam’s act of disobedience. Adam brought death into the world; Jesus brought eternal life.
Jesus is the one man who was uniquely qualified to carry out this life-saving mission. To be sure, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is fully human. He is one hundred percent flesh and blood, and was subject to all of the temptations that you and I face. Yet, Jesus is much more than a mere man. Jesus wasn’t like Adam who was made in the image of God; Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, is God. Because Jesus is both God and man, he alone was able to save us from the consequences of sin. As true man, Jesus placed himself under the law; as true God, Jesus kept God’s law perfectly. As true man, Jesus suffered death and hell on the cross. Jesus’ resurrection proves that God has accepted the sacrifice of his Son’s perfect life as payment for sin. Mankind’s debt to God has been paid in full. Here is a fact that bears repeating: the act of the first man, Adam, brought sin and death into the world; the actions of the second man, Jesus, brought life and salvation to mankind.
Paul sums up the comparison this way: “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom. 5:15). Indeed, Jesus is the priceless gift of God’s undeserved love that God graciously pours out on us. God pours out his love in the waters of baptism that wash away our sins and makes us God’s children. He pours out his love in the body and blood of the Lord’s Supper that assure us that all of our sins have been forgiven. He pours out countless blessings—forgiveness, joy, peace, hope, love—all of which are ours through faith in God’s greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
So, then, what is our response to God’s overflowing grace? The gospel empowers and motivates us to live God-pleasing lives. As our hearts are filled with the love of Christ, our actions will overflow in deeds of kindness and love towards God and our fellow man. The good news of our Savior moves us to live our baptism by daily drowning our Old Adam so that the new man in us will rise to live in righteousness and purity forever. Because we are God’s children, we will “no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but [we are] transformed” by the gospel. Therefore, let us follow the pattern of Jesus, to the everlasting glory of our father in heaven. Amen.
“All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall” (CW 378)
Text: Lazarus Spengler, 1479-1534, abr.; tr. Matthias Loy, 1828-1915, st. 1-4, 6 alt.; The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis, 1941
All mankind fell in Adam’s fall;
One common sin infects us all.
From one to all the curse descends,
And over all God’s wrath descends.
As by one man all mankind fell
And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,
So by one Man, who took our place,
We all were justified by grace.
We thank you, Christ, new life is ours,
New light, new hope, new strength, new pow’rs;
This grace our ev’ry way attend
Until we reach our journey’s end.